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How to Motivate Kids to Study at Any Age

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“I have a social studies test today. It’s on the branches of government. I think there are three. Maybe.” Have you ever been in the car on the way to school and had a conversation like this? You know your child is unprepared and trying to figure out how to motivate kids to study feels impossible.

Research shows that rewards can have a negative impact on a child’s desire to learn. So much for bribing kids with Skittles and screen time! But there are things you can do, whether your child is 7, 12, or 17. Here’s how to motivate kids to study at any age.

Studying at 7 is a lot different than studying at 17, so we’ve broken this list up into three age groups. And since kids are still kids, this list builds on itself. So what works for an elementary-aged child can still be applied to a middle or high schooler.

How to Motivate Kids to Study in Elementary School

Be an to motivate kids to study

It’s hard to convince a child to read if they never see you crack open a book. Be a family that loves to learn. When you learn something new, talk about it at the dinner table. You could even use iMOM’s Reading Log and track your reading as a family.

Allow them to choose.

I cringed when my son decided his essay on a favorite hobby was going to be about Minecraft. Why can’t he impress his teacher with a paragraph about bird watching? But if choosing a topic that is more interesting to him means he’ll get more out of the assignment, I have to let him run with it.

Make technology work for you.

Ask the teacher if he or she can recommend any free apps to supplement classwork. And because tech has become a necessary part of at-home learning, be sure to set parental controls so they’re not tempted to switch over to TikTok or another app.

How to Motivate Kids to Study in Middle School (Try everything above plus…)

Let them pick a space.

When I was a kid, I found a cozy spot in the living room, a CD I could play in the background, and a candle that helped me relax. That was my study spot. Let your child choose a place to make his or her own.

Let them study with a friend.

In middle school, socialization is nearly as important as the books. So allow your child to invite a friend over to study. Provide some snacks and help them set a goal so they can stay on task.

Help them stay organized.

Your child is becoming more capable of taking care of herself, but she might still need a hand with staying organized. Buy some file folders or a crate for supplies. Set a study schedule and encourage her to start with the toughest assignment first.

How to Motivate Kids to Study in High School (Try everything above plus…)

Give them autonomy.

A step up from middle school, these kids really need to manage themselves in order to prepare for college and beyond. Instead of harping on them, allow them to take control of their studies. They might just step up to the challenge.

Try the Pomodoro Technique.

Kids in high school often have hours of homework. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method. You work for 25 minutes, take a 5- to 10-minute break, and then repeat. There’s a bit more to it, but having a set time instills a sense of urgency instead of “this is never going to end.”

Focus on intrinsic motivations for learning.

This is the big one. Many kids study only because they want to make the grade, earn the incentive, or avoid getting in trouble. As your child matures, encourage him or her to learn for the sake of learning. If you’re laughing right now, I’m telling you—it is possible. Build his self-esteem. Show her how knowledge applies in real life. Look for outside-the-box opportunities for high school students to learn.

What has worked for you when motivating your kids to study?

Need more help with motivation? Check out these 10 Ways to Motivate your Child.


Do you think there is a subject that’s too easy or too hard?

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